Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has warned a county prosecutor not to reveal details of criminal probes to a bar association investigator examining unethical conduct allegations against her former boss.
Arpaio said in a letter to prosecutor Vicki Kratovil that if she reveals the contents of his probes on two county supervisors and a judge, he would consider charging her with obstructing an investigation and other crimes.
“There is no excuse for failing to enforce the law, and I will not tolerate anyone revealing information that will put these criminal investigations at risk,” Arpaio said in the letter.
The bar investigation arises from a court ruling that concluded former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, an Arpaio ally and Kratovil’s ex-boss, had prosecuted a county supervisor for political gain and had a conflict of interest in the case. The bar probe is being led by John Gleason, a Colorado lawyer.
Thomas resigned as county attorney in April to run for state attorney general. The Board of Supervisors appointed Rick Romley to fill the spot until voters pick someone to complete the final two years of Thomas’ term.
Romley has responded to Arpaio in a letter, saying there’s no attorney-client privilege between police and prosecutors in investigations as the sheriff claims.
Romley said he was going to inform federal prosecutors that the sheriff raised the possibility of criminal charges against Kratovil if she reveals details of the cases.
“This threat is not only inappropriate but is a clear abuse of your authority as sheriff of Maricopa County,” Romley said.
A federal grand jury is already investigating Arpaio and his office for alleged abuses of power.
Barnett Lotstein, a spokesman for Thomas’ campaign, said Romley’s analysis is incorrect, because the power to waive attorney-client privilege rests with Arpaio, not Romley.
“It’s not (Romley’s) privilege. It’s Joe’s privilege,” Lotstein said.
Arpaio and Thomas have been embroiled in a feud for more than a year with county officials. The sheriff and Thomas have said they were trying to root out corruption by making criminal cases against the two county officials and the judge.
County officials say those investigations were baseless.
Criminal charges against the supervisors, Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley, and Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe were dismissed after a judge ruled that Thomas had a conflict of interest in pressing a case against Wilcox. The investigations of both supervisors have since been turned over to a prosecutor from another county.
Maricopa County Attorney’s office spokesman Bill FitzGerald, U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle and Gleason have declined to comment. Arpaio’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.